Global South Innovation Spotlight: How Grameen Shakti is Delivering Affordable Solar Energy to Clients in Rural Bangladesh

This post is part of a new series highlighting models of success that are improving lives in the developing world.

Company: Grameen Shakti, founded in 1996 as a not-for-profit business under the Grameen Bank.

What they do: Provide renewable energy service for Bangladesh’s rural population by installing home solar systems. They have newer programs that provide improved cookstoves, biogas and organic fertilizer.

By the numbers: The company says it has installed more than 130,000 solar home systems this year. It forecasts that it would have installed more than five million by 2015.

What’s working: In addition to developing the technological aspect of renewable energy, Grameen Shakti is highly focused on ensuring that its solar home systems reach people in remote areas who otherwise wouldn’t have access to electricity. Often, these are some of the poorest energy consumers. So the company has introduced a micro-utility option – based on the Grameen Bank’s micro financing model – to expand access to solar energy.

In a post on the Sierra Club’s blog, Nancy Wimmer, the director of microSOLAR who wrote a book about Grameen Shakti, explains how the company has been successful in servicing customers in physically hard-to-reach places. Wimmer writes:

“Shakti meets this challenge by creating rural supply chains and after sales service. Its engineers and technicians live, work and are trained on the job in the villages. They become part of the community, keep in close contact with their customers and make sure the solar systems are running. If there is a problem, Shakti is onsite to solve it – even in times of disaster.

In the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, Shakti branch staff members were out doing repairs within hours in areas it took days and weeks for emergency teams to reach. For Shakti, all business is rural. Its field managers run 1,500 branch offices in every district in Bangladesh. They guarantee complete service – from installation, maintenance, repair and financing to customer care and training.”

For more on the company, watch this clip of Grameen Bank Founder Muhammad Yunus talking about the creation of Grameen Shakti around the two minute mark.